BY: Cheryl Duggan
Friday, April 8th, 2016 was Zoo Lovers Day. It seems logical that the most likely place to honour it would be at the Metro Toronto Zoo. It has the reputation of being the best zoo in Canada. The Toronto Zoo is on roughly 710 acres of land with a population of approximately 5000 animals from over 460 different species.
Zoos provide information about environmental factors that often times adversely affects animals habitat. They are also an important educational tool when it comes to the conservation of endangered species. Pandas are a prime example of how zoos have had a positive impact through the cycle of education. Even what may be considered the most simplest of tasks can be challenging. Things like determining the sex of an adult panda is based on a DNA test.
As far as the Giant Pandas reproductive success there are several complications. From the one reproductive cycle per year lasting for a very limited time of 24-72 hours to the 50 – 160 day gestation period. In some cases panda porn has been used to stimulate the mating process. If all else fails the female panda is artificially inseminated. Then when a new panda is born it only weighs 1/900th the weight of its mother. If, by some miracle twins are born as happened here at the Toronto Zoo, the mother has a tendency to nurture one and reject the other. Thankfully, zoo staff were on hand to provide round the clock assistance to both the mother (Er Shun) and her cubs (Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue). For the record the cubs will be six months old on April 13th, 2016.
No matter what, your perspective on the ethicality of zoos in general, it’s really hard not to see the benefits of continued research and education with respect to individual species like the Giant Panda. The more we learn about animals the more likely we are to positively impact their populations for future generations of animal lovers to enjoy.